KIT: Hasegawa 1/32 FW-190A-6
KIT #: 08169?
PRICE: 4200 yen at www.hlj.com
DECALS: One option
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver
NOTES:  

HISTORY

       The Fw-190A series was so right in design that - once the problem of providing adequate cooling for the BMW 801 radial engine was solved - the airframe went through little modification other than minor changes associated with changes in armament.

      The one major change between the early subtypes A-1/A-4 aircraft and the later series beginning with the A-5 involved  a change in the engine mount for center-of-gravity problems associated with use of various armament fittings.  This lengthened the forward fuselage 5.9 inches, just ahead of the wing leading edge. 

     The Fw-190A-5 and A-6 are the main production versions of the "mid-range" Wurger; the Fw-190A-3 and A-4 being the main versions of the early-production range, and the A-8 being the main version of the late production range.  

     The Fw-190A-6 was intended for use on the Eastern Front, and  shared in with the earlier fighters the fuselage armament of 2 7.7mm machine guns.  While the A-5 had kept the MG-FF 20mm cannon in the outer wing position, the A-6 replaced this weapon with an MG151 in each position, the same as those carried in the wing root, giving it an all-cannon armament of one of the best aerial weapons developed by the Germans during the war (which led to the development of the U.S. M-39 cannon post-war). The A-6 was also the first version to use the new lighter-weight wing that would become standard for all Fw-190s that followed. Over 1,000 Fw-190A-6s were delivered to the Eastern Front during the winter of 1943-44, and they were used until the end of the war.  It was the last of the lightweight “dogfighting” Fw-190s.

 Erich Rudorffer:

     It is surprising that in this era when the great Luftwaffe aces of the Second World War are well-known to modelers, that one of the greatest aces is one who can certainly land on any list of the lesser-known.

      Major Erich Rudorffer was the seventh-ranked Luftwaffe ace, with 222 victories, a score that opened in the Battle of Britain while he was flying the Bf-109E with JG 2 Richtofen and ended in April 1945 in an Me-262 as the Gruppenkommandeur of I/JG 7, the first jet fighter Gruppe. The fact he did not serve in the postwar Bundesluftwaffe, but rather opted to return to school and become a very successful corporate attorney might have something to do with his relative lack of renown today; that he was described as reserved and retiring personally may also be a reason (I had the privilege of meeting Gunter Rall, Walter Krupinski and Adolf Galland in 1984 - no one would call any of those men “reserved” or “retiring” even at that point of their lives). 

     Of his 222 victories, 74 were scored while flying in the west and in Tunisia, where he scored 27 victories during three months in winter and spring of 1943. Rudorffer was definitely a Focke-Wulf ace, inasmuch as 62 of his western victories were scored in the Wurger, and all his 136 Eastern Front victories were achieved Kurt Tank's fighter. His score of 12 in the Me-262 makes him the third-ranked German jet ace of the war, all of which were scored in a five week period between early March and mid-April of 1945, during which time his primary focus as commanding officer was maintaining supplies and operational aircraft.

      The Germans themselves consider that Rudorffer only had two peers in the Jagdwaffe when it came to gunnery skill: Hans-Joachim Marseille and Erich Hartmann. Rudorffer's specialty was multiple kills utilizing deflection shooting and an economy of ammunition.

      In a seventeen-minute engagement on November 6, 1943, Rudorffer shot down thirteen Russian fighters, one after the other. In North Africa on February 9, 1943, Rudorffer shot down eight RAF fighters in one mission, following that on February 15 with seven more RAF victories in two missions.  

     Following the withdrawal of German units from North Africa, Rudorffer was transferred to JG 54 on the Eastern Front and promoted to Gruppenkommandeur of II/JG 54. Entering combat that June, he scored eight in two missions on August 24, and seven in one mission on October 11. After his top score of 13 that November, he claimed eleven Russian fighters in two missions on October 28, 1944. No other fighter pilot in any air force equaled this record. Rudorffer was himself shot down sixteen times and had to bale out in nine of those.

     By May 1944, I and II Gruppen of the Grunherz Geschwader were the only dedicated air superiority units on the eastern front still equipped with the Fw-190. Though the Fw-190A-8 was available, Rudorffer and his pilots still preferred the Fw-190A-6, which had the same cannon armament as the A-8, but did not carry the fuselage-mounted 13mm heavy machine guns. Thus, the A-6 was the last of the lightweight radial-engined Fw-190s, which allowed it to maintain its edge in maneuverability over the Soviet opposition in air combat. 

     The Soviet summer offensive, launched three days after the invasion of Normandy, forced JG 54 to withdraw from Russia into Latvia, moving south from Leningrad toward Germany. At the same time, Finnish forces to the north of Leningrad came under heavy attack. Up to this point, the Finns - though allied with the Germans - had largely fought their own war, being primarily interested in recovering the territory taken from them in the Winter War of 1939-40. Now hard-pressed, the Finns asked the Germans for aerial assistance in stabilizing the Karelian Isthmus front.

      II/JG 54, with 34 operational fighters, flew to Immola where it became the air superiority section of Gefechtsverband Kuhlmey, which included 20 Fw-190F Schlactjaeger and Ju-87D Stukas from II/SG 2. The unit operated from Immola for a month, during which the Wurgers of II/JG 54 scored 66 victories, including ten by Rudorffer.

      With the Karelian Front momentarily stabilized - though it would collapse again in August, forcing the Finns to sue for peace with the Allies - II/JG 54 returned to Latvia. By the end of August, the Grunherzen had retreated into the Courland peninsula, where the unit would fight on until the end of the war in May, 1945, never having more than fifty operational Fw-190s during this time. Their assignment of providing air cover to the hard-pressed German and Baltic forces meant they fought Russian air units comprising a total 3,600 aircraft during the six Russian offensives against Courland. During the first and second offensives in November and December, II/JG 54 shot down 236 enemy aircraft at a loss of 18 for themselves.

      Rudorffer left II/JG 54 in February, 1945, his place being taken by Hauptmann Herbert "Mungo" Fineisen, and took command of I/JG 7, the only Gruppe of the Geschwader to attain full operational capability.

THE KIT

     This Fw-190A-5 is the third kit in Hasegawa’s line of 1/32 Fw-190s, being their first release of an early-version A-model.  I think they went with the A-5 due to the fact that the different parts - lower wing, gear doors, fuselage gun cover -are minimal changes from the A-8.  The kit could be modified to an Fw-190A-4 by removing the “extension areas” of the forward fuselage, which are clearly delineated. 

      Those modelers who have the Fw-190A-8 will see that the only changes are the parts listed above.  Unfortunately, Hasegawa did not do the early wheel with the lighter hub, and they also have made the mistake with all their A-model releases of keeping the seat from the Dora-9, which is quite different from that used on the A-models.  This kit had a seat that attempted to create the earlier, angle-back seat, but it really doesn’t look good.  I highly recommend one obtain a resin replacement.

      Those modelers who have not done an A-8 with the lower outer wing panel for the MG 151 could use that part with this kit to create the Fw-190A-6, the first version with an all-MG 151 cannon armament, which is what I did.  Hasegawa also earlier did a limited release kit of the Fw-190A-6 with the correct cannon panel, which may be found at some online hobby shops.

      This particular kit is another of Hasegawa’s limited releases, and provides very good decals for the Fw-190A-5 flown by Major Josef “Pips” Priller as Gruppenkommandeur of II/JG 26 in 1945, being the airplane made famous in the advertising photo for BMW of Priller posed with his BMW car and BMW-powered fighter.  Since I had already made a model of one of Priller’s Wurgers - the famous “Black 13" in which he made his “Normandy run” - I used the DataDecals sheet that included the markings for Major Erich Rudorffer’s Fw-190A-6 as seen at Immola in the summer of 1944.

CONSTRUCTION

      Construction differs only slightly from the Fw-190A-8 kit, and so I will only comment on those.

      The only difference in assembly with the A-8 is the wheel well doors, which include the inner doors that completely enclosed the wheel well on the early A-models.  While this specific kit is for Priller’s A-5 that did not have the inner gear doors because it carried a drop tank, the kit also includes these earlier gear doors, which were on Rudorffer’s A-6.  As it comes in the kit, these doors are meant to be assembled in the full down position.  However, those doors were only ever fully open during the gear retraction process, opening and closing as the gear came up or down.  Sitting on the ground, the doors should be raised.  This involves cutting off the mounting tab of the doors and modifying the opening and closing mechanism and re-mounting it in the door to enable the door to be mounted in the semi-closed position.  None of this is difficult to do, and eyeballing the installation will show you exactly what cuts to make to get the mounting right. (Your editor would suggest checking photos as I found a rather surprising number of them with these gear doors down when researching this several years ago.)

      Most of the Fw-190s on the Eastern Front did not use the drop tank, so I left that mounting off in the assembly. 

     Fortunately, the “problem” of having wheels in the kit that only had the later hub was not a problem for this model, since the A-6 used the later wheels.

      I also filled the panel line for the lower fuselage access panel for MW 50, since this was not used on the earlier Fw-190s.

      I used a resin seat that is right for the A-series Fw-190s, and the new Eduard 1/32 photoetch seatbelts.  These are multi-part assemblies that are highly detailed and look very realistic when completed and placed in position.

     Past that, I will refer you to the other full-build reviews of the Fw-190A-8 here at Modeling Madness for a more detailed discussion of the assembly process, since it is the same for this kit.

COLORS & MARKINGS

 Painting:

      While JG 54 is well-known for its full repaint camouflage on many of the Fw-190s they used, to better camouflage the airplane for their operations over the forests of northern Russia, by the time the Fw-190A-6 arrived there was not time to do these extensive repaints, at least in II/JG 54.  The Fw-190A-6s of the unit retained their factory-applied 74/75/76, though the fuselages were darkened with additional oversprayed RLM 74 to make them less conspicuous on the ground.  The airplanes did all carry the full Eastern front yellow identification markings on the lower rudder, a band around the rear fuselage, under the wingtips and under the cowling.

      I started by preshading the model by airbrushing flat black over all the panel lines. I then applied Tamiya Flat White to the areas where the yellow markings would be, and followed that up with Tamiya Flat Yellow for those areas.  These were then masked off.

      I used Xtracrylix RLM74 Grau grun, RLM 75 Grau violett, and RLM76 Lichtblau for the colors. Since this airplane operated at lower altitude and in cloudy skies, I did not do a lot of fading to these colors, keeping that very subtle, with additional violet in the RML75, some additional grey in the RLM74, and a bit of white added to the RLM 76 for “post shading.”

      When this was all dry, the model was given a coat of Xtracrylix Gloss Varnish.

 Decals:

      I used national markings decals and stencil decals from an EagleCals Fw-190 sheet.  As stated above, the Gruppenkommandeur Chevron and the II Gruppe bar came from the DataDecals sheet. Photos of Rudorffer’s airplane show that following the overspray of the fuselage with RLM74, the stencils and gas triangles were not replaced, so all the stencils I used were on the wing and lower surfaces.

      When the decals were set, I applied exhaust staining with Tamiya “Smoke,” then gave the model several coats of Xtracrylix Flat Varnish.

FINAL CONSTRUCTION

      I unmasked the canopy and attached it in the open position, attached the landing gear and prop.

CONCLUSIONS

      I built this Hasegawa Fw-190 the week after my disastrous introduction to the Dragon P-51D.  This experience reminded me throughout the project just how good this Hasegawa kit is in comparison (actually, there is no comparison).  There is sufficient detail that a basic OOB build like this one will look good when completed. All the parts fit right, with the landing gear designed so that the traditional problem of aligning the main gear on all other Fw-190 kits is made impossible to screw up without planning to do so.  The surface detail looks right for a flush-riveted airplane in which the riveting cannot really be seen on the real thing further away than 2 feet.  Considering how much better this updated kit is to the Hasegawa Fw-190A kit of 20 years ago, one hopes they will do a similar upgrade to their old P-51D kit, which really will then give them a license to print money. A modeler can pick up any of these Hasegawa Fw-190s and any of the many aftermarket decal sheets available, and be guaranteed of an enjoyable project and a worthwhile result.

 Thanks to HobbyLink Japan for the review kit.  Get yours at “Japanese prices” at www.hlj.com 

January 2007

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